Getting to Grips with Typography

Getting to Grips with Typography

One of the best ways a graphic designer can characterise their work and convey their client’s needs in a unique manner is with typography.

Now, it may seem impossible to fail with the seemingly limitless number of fonts out there to accentuate the character and feel of your designs. However, all these fonts have different nuances which can affect the rhythm and meter of a project.

The simplest example of how a font can display completely different emotions is with capital letters. For example, the capitalised “I AM ALARMED” is much more dramatic and punchy than “I am alarmed”.

Understanding the basics of typography, therefore, is essential in giving you the confidence to pick and craft a font which is the difference between an inspired piece of work and a ‘shrug the shoulders and sigh’ piece of work.

Let’s take a look at how typography comes together to convey the essence of your work with panache and ease!

Using Lines to Align

Your fonts will always conform to at least five lines to give balance to your work and these are:


This is the highest line available and will be where the peaks of ascending letters such as l and t reach. Please note that this line is only for the tops of lower case characters. Capital letters only reach as high as the capline.


Yes, as we just discussed, this is where the peak of capital letters sit and make themselves at home!


The mid line demonstrates the level at which the peak of non-ascending letters e.g. a and o will touch.


The baseline is pretty much the foundation which your typography sits on and allows your texts to flow in a straight line.


The final line required is the beardline and this sets out the level at which the base of descending letters such as g and p will reach to.

Letter Spacing

Another aspect which can fuel your designs with the right atmosphere is the horizontal spacing between letters.

But how much space do you need? Well, it all depends on the project, personal tastes and current trends!

Ideally, you should always be aiming to create a style with all aspects of your design and the typography is no exception. You may want a looser feel for your design, so try larger spaces between characters. If you want a tighter, more urgent feel to your work then reduce those spaces.

And you can’t forget the importance of kerning (adding or removing space) when working with fonts! The most classic example of this is the letters A and V which don’t cause any issues next to straight sided characters (e.g b and l), but naturally have too much distance next to each other and cause a distortion in the flow of words.

Leading Space

Assuming you’ve got more than one line of text in your design, you’re going to need to get a handle on the ‘leading’ space in between them.

Of course, in the presence of descending letters (e.g. p and g) then you need to be careful that you don’t limit your leading otherwise it’s going to look like a traffic jam of letters.

And, likewise, too much space in between lines will cause your texts to become slower to read and require too much eye movement on the viewer’s part. This can become distracting and reduce the design’s impact.

A good tip that I always like to dispense on the subject of leading is: the longer the lines of text then the more leading you need to make text blocks easy to read.

Aligning your Text

Ensuring the readability of your text should always be paramount and aligning it correctly can have a huge impact on its legibility. And you have a number of options at your disposal.

Flush Left

This is the most common type of alignment in the Western world due to our reading habit of reading from left to right. As a result, you can’t go far wrong with this alignment style.

Flush Right

And at the opposite end of the spectrum we have flush right alignment where the text is, you guessed it, aligned to the right!

Although this can be disorientating to our Western eyes it also creates an interesting visual effect in the form of additional copy against the main body of text.


Central alignment uses the centre of a given text area to align characters and is at its most effective with small blocks of text. Anything more than 3 lines of text and it becomes difficult to process due to the variance in start and end points.


With justified alignment you enter a world where the beginning and end of the text is aligned to the left and right of the text area.

The problem I find with justified alignment is that, despite looking pretty with its uniform sides it has to compensate with unequal spacing between characters to achieve this.

Once you’ve got to grips with these basics you’ll find that choosing and working with the font becomes a piece of cake!



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